As two-a-day camp opened at Kansas State earlier this month, running back coach Dana Dimel was taking a wait and see attitude.
Due to his efforts last fall and during the spring season, Keithen Valentine (5-8, 193, Sr) was the first-team running back, backed by a pair of ultra-sized unknowns in Daniel Thomas (6-2, 227, Jr) and Jarell Childs (6-1, 220, Fr).
A transfer from Mississippi Delta Community College, Valentine started the first three games last year, but then disappeared.
"I don't know what happened. I was never told," said Valentine, who had a single-game high of 65 yards against North Texas. "I just look at this as a new start ... new life, and I'm excited to take advantage of it."
To last year, Dimel said, "His fundamentals are so much better than a year ago. He's shown to be very intelligent and coachable. He has a lot of toughness to him and is making sharper cuts than last year. He has a chance to be a top-notch running back. Through continued hard work and focus, he could be a real strength for our team this year."
While a solid No. 1 in the spring, then along came another southern transplant in Thomas from Northwest Mississippi Community College where he was a 4-Star recruit and ranked as the No. 8 JUCO prospect in the state of Mississippi.
Oh, it was down south where Thomas was more of a quarterback than a running back, to a degree, much like a past Wildcat named ... Michael Bishop.
"I'm getting equal snaps at both positions, so it's just wherever the coaches put me," Thomas said.
As a running back, Thomas said, "I like Adrian Peterson a lot, so I try to model my game around him. He is a good runner, so I like to look at that aspect of his game."
As for the Bishop comparison, Thomas gives a chuckle as he says, "I hear he was pretty good. Running-wise, I think I'm pretty fair, but I don't have an arm like Bishop. (Pause) But I can throw a little."
Dimel, however, slows things down by saying, "We want to get him on the field any way we can, but our first goal is to get him to be really good at something. Right now that's getting him to be a really skilled running back.
"But he gives us a good combination of speed and size," Dimel continued. "He has a huge lower body and the ability to run through people and run past people."
What Thomas is trying to learn, according to Dimel, are the basics of knowing which hand to carry the ball in, reading blocks and proper footwork.
"As a quarterback last year, he just did what he could do," Dimel said. "But he's an intelligent kid and has a nice aptitude for learning."
Coach Bill Snyder also said that Thomas definitely was "... a running back."
He added, "He's a fun guy to watch. I think he's going to be a good player. He prefers running back. That's where his comfort level is best and where he's had success."
But Snyder added that the position encompasses multiple things, which includes passing and blocking. Childs was ranked the No. 15 prospect out of the Missouri prep ranks in 2007 and redshirted last season.
"He's explosive and he likes to hit people," Dimel said. "He's going to add some physicalness to our running game."
Flanders rushed for 5,143 yards and 65 touchdowns in his prep career, while Hubert accounted for 2,853 yards and an amazing 41 touchdowns in his senior season when he was ranked the No. 4 running back in Texas.
Another feature to K-State's running attack that has been missing the last three seasons is a fullback. Braden Wilson (6-4, 245, Fr) will fill that role.
RUNNING BACK TWO-DEEP CANDIDATES
Jarell Childs, 6-1, 20, Fr, Kansas City, Mo.
Tim Flanders, 5-9, 208, Fr, Midwest City, Okla.
John Hubert, 5-9, 190, Fr, Waco, Texas
Daniel Thomas, 6-2, 227, Jr, Hilliard, Fla.
Keithen Valentine, 5-8, 193, Sr, Baton Rouge, La.
Braden Wilson, 6-4, 245, Fr, Smith Center, Kan.